Overview of County Government

Counties in the United States are political subdivisions of the states, organized to assist in the local administration of state functions. There are more than 3000 counties in the United States and exist as functioning units of state government in every state except Connecticut and Rhode Island. The average number of counties in states is around 60, but Delaware has only 3 counties while Texas has 254. Alabama has 67 counties.

Counties have been traditionally responsible for the local performance of such state functions as administration of justice, law enforcement, road and bridge construction, recording of legal papers, property and license tax collection, indigent care, election administration, and educational administration. In more recent years, counties have been authorized to engage in many additional activities including public health, agriculture, recreation, libraries, airports, a broad program of public welfare, fire protection, and public utilities. Modern counties may also engage in such other activities as zoning and providing public housing. With increased involvement in federal programs and sub-state regional programs, county government has significantly increased in complexity.

Unlike state government, both legislative and administrative powers are normally vested in an elected commission, which in a limited sense functions as the county's governing body. In addition to the county governing body, there are within a county a number of separate elected officers such as judges, sheriff, district attorney, coroner, revenue commissioner, probate judge, etc. Although these officers are elected independently of the county governing body, or in our case, commission, the governing body exercises part of total control of budgetary matters.

The Tallapoosa County Commission consists of a five member elected body, which represents the five commission districts of Tallapoosa County.

Each commissioner is elected for a four-year term.

The body of the commission elects a chairperson from among its members every 9 months. Prior to 1990, the probate judge also served as chairperson of the commission. A class action suit abolished the probate judge/chair structure.

Function of the Tallapoosa County Commission

  1. Appropriates and authorizes all budgets allowed under county government and approved all disbursements of all funds authorized under county government except custodial funds.
  2. In conjunction with the revenue commissioner authorizes the collection of all taxes, fees, commissions, proceeds, etc.
  3. Is responsible for all financial transaction of county government including debt service.
  4. Authorizes all county highway construction and maintenance functions including the use of all highway funds. Tallapoosa County has a Unit Road System as opposed to a District Road System.
  5. Authorizes elections including the establishment of voting districts, authorizing voting equipment, and pays the costs of elections.
  6. Establishes and authorizes county personnel systems and actions.
  7. Engages in and authorizes industrial and economic development.
  8. Engages in corporate services such as utilities, indigent health, water authorities, industrial boards, etc.
  9. Engages in and authorizes planning and zoning activities.
  10. Approves all grants, contracts, abatements, vacations, variances, etc.
  11. Hires the county engineer and county administrator.


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